PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 1 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s $100 billion Budget hole; Intergenerational Report advertising spend; Marriage equality
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDREW LEIGH: Good morning. I’m Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. We now learn that despite the Government putting up a deeply unfair budget, they're now spending more and more hard-earned taxpayer dollars on trying to promote it. Originally the fee that was going to promote the Intergenerational Report was $11 million. It's now been revealed through more detail in the Budget papers that the Budget ad campaigns will cost $36 million. At the same time, we’ve seen from the Parliamentary Budget Office that the cumulative deficit over the next decade will amount to $100 billion. This is because the Government keeps putting up measures which are just so deeply unfair and so at odds with the Australian values. They’re refusing sensible savings measures such as Labor's multinational tax package and our high end superannuation package, which together add more than $20 billion to the budget bottom line over the coming decade.
LEIGH: So much of this year's Budget is about adding a booby trap to a positive measure. The Government says that the only way in which parents with kids in childcare get more support is if Labor is willing to support them in taking away money from pregnant mums and from families where the youngest child has just turned six. Australia is better than that. We don't have to pit mum against mum, family against family. We can come up with fair approaches, as Labor has done with our multinational tax package.
JOURNALIST: But would you support it if the age was increased to ten or twelve?
LEIGH: We simply don't think that this is a fair measure, we don't think children get cheaper when they turn six. Certainly in my household with a two, five and eight-year-old, I can tell you that the eldest is no cheaper than his younger brothers.
JOURNALIST: One of the bigger structural changes in future years the Government wants to make is to school and hospital funding, we've only had a very vague assertion from Chris Bowen that it would be better under Labor with no idea of the details. What sort of figure are you going to land at there?
LEIGH: Well as Chris Bowen has pointed out, if we're fortunate enough to form government after the next election we'll have to look at where the damage has been done. You can see already, the Government already trying to take a Federal Government Budget challenge and slough it off to the states. Many of those state premiers – whether they be Labor or conservative – are pointing out the difficulty that poses to them in being able to balance their own budgets. So we'll make that decision based on numbers available to us at the next election if we're fortunate enough to win government.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it's a good idea that Bill Shorten has put in his gay marriage bill into Parliament today, considering it doesn't have the support at the moment?
LEIGH: I certainly hope Tony Abbott will allow a free vote on this. He's said in the past that when there was a Bill, the Coalition party room will consider it. But he hasn't been willing to do that despite there already being a Bill in the Senate. Many same-sex couples, many straight Australians believe it is time for the Parliament to step up. Our Parliament is lagging behind public opinion on this, lagging behind other advanced English-speaking countries. We're now the only advanced English-speaking country with a total ban on same-sex marriage. This won't weaken the strength of traditional marriages like my own, but it will give many same-sex Australians the opportunity to make that greatest commitment to one another.
JOURNALIST: But as you've indicated from your comments, the priority is on the Budget and it is sort of natural that this will follow in the next sitting?
LEIGH: The Bill that Tanya Plibersek put up 14 months ago has been waiting for a Liberal Party co-sponsor for 14 months. There might have been a bit of chat but there hasn't been very much action across the Coalition parties on this. I hope that Bill Shorten's Bill now provides a sense of impetus and we're now able to get together and do this as a whole Parliament, and it will require the whole Parliament. Labor can't pass these changes alone. I do hope that we make this important step which ensures the young couples in my electorate who were able to tie the knot very briefly when the ACT allowed same-sex marriage are now able to go back to the altar knowing this time it's forever.
JOURNALIST: There's been a bit of chat as well about a binding vote, but that's sort of gone away. Has Tanya Plibersek been satisfied by this move from Bill Shorten?
LEIGH: The only real question is whether Tony Abbott will allow a free vote in his party room. We know there's people in the Coalition party room - possibly Malcolm Turnbull among them - who would like to support same-sex marriage. We need the Prime Minister to stop being a blocker on this and to finally allow Australia to support-sex marriage as other advanced English-speaking democracies.
JOURNALIST: What about the prospect though, your personal views, on a binding vote?
LEIGH: The real question here is what the Coalition party is doing. The Coalition parties allow a free vote then I think there's scope to get the numbers in Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Right, you've made that point but I'm asking whether you think Labor should have a binding vote?
LEIGH: The key question, if we want to get this done, is Tony Abbott allowing his members to have a free vote. Thanks everyone.
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